Picking Hops With Wynkoop Brewery
On August 9, I was invited to join the Wynkoop brewers and staff to pick locally-grown hops for their beer Belgarado. It is a Belgian style Pale Ale made with all Colorado grown ingredients, except for the yeast. Fresh cut Chinook hops were shipped over to the brewery from Voss Farms in Arvada, CO. One of my friends from Kentucky, Andrew, was in Denver for the week and he was thrilled to be a part of this process. Plus, we were goaded with the promise of free beer.
*Side note: I’ll do just about anything for free craft beer …
Most beers you drink will use dried hops or hop pellets(dried hops compressed into pellet form for preservation & storage purposes). They make brewing beers year round possible, especially the hoppy beers that we here at PorchDrinking enjoy. They can be stored in refrigeration units & used whenever needed. Fresh hops, on the other hand have to be used really close to harvest, like within days. There are very few fresh hop beers, also called wet hopped beers, & they usually come out around harvest time, September & October. Wet hopped beers are less intense & show the lighter floral side of hops. They exude a greener note in the beer. Some would even say almost a grassy flavor. Start looking in your local liquor retail establishment for some wet hopped beers! For example: Fresh Hop by Great Divide(available in 22oz bottles), High Tide IPA by Port Brewing(22oz bottles), Wet hopped Mirror Pond Pale Ale by Deschutes(draft only), & Wet by Surly Brewing.
Andrew and I arrived at the brewery to find the picking had started earlier than I was told, so we jumped right in and started picking hops. The task of picking hops is very similar to picking berries or other fruit. You want to pick the hop clean from the stem without destroying it. I tried to turn picking hops into a game. I would try to clear all the hops off the vine in a certain time, then reward myself with beer. The free beers were smaller than anticipated, but I guess it isn’t very efficient to have drunk people completing any tasks. I did, however, get to sample two other new brews from Wynkoop, the Hopweiss and Brewjolais Nouveau. Very delicious! If you are in the Denver area, then you need to get down to Wynkoop (corner of 18th and Wynkoop in LoDo) and try these beers ASAP!
We managed to fill a five gallon bucket more than three times with hops before we had to split for prior obligations.
Even though we were wearing rubber gloves, our hands smelled like chinook hops for the rest of the day. Man, I miss that smell. Dear Bath & Body Works, please make a hop “flavored” soap. Guaranteed increase in male consumers … At the end of our picking session, we were invited back to sample some Belgian style beers that were left over from their United Tastes Of Belgium tasting from a two weeks prior. So we came back later that night to consume our “salary”.
All in all, it was a very cool and rewarding experience. I have seen hop vines before, but never actually picked them. Plus, I had the pleasure of meeting one of the coolest dudes in Denver, Marty Jones. His official title is Conductor/Idea Man, well that is what it says on his business card. Be on the lookout for Belgarado (on tap only), Hopweiss (limited edition six-pack cans), and Brewjolais Nouveau (on tap only).